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Transportation

MIT Team Tops Hyperloop Design Competition (google.com) 144

The Dallas Morning News reports that a team from MIT has topped competitors from around 100 universities around the world at a competition held on the campus of Texas A&M by presenting a workable design vision for Elon Musk's dream of a hyperloop. The hyperloop concept, mentioned several times before on Slashdot, involves rapidly shuffling passenger pods through 12-foot-wide tubes evacuated of air, and would mean terrestrial transport at speeds topping those of commercial air travel. From the Morning News article: Delft University of Technology from The Netherlands finished second, the University of Wisconsin third, Virginia Tech fourth and the University of California, Irvine, fifth. The top teams will build their pods and test them at the world's first Hyperloop Test Track, being built adjacent to SpaceX's Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters.
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MIT Team Tops Hyperloop Design Competition

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  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @01:45AM (#51412217) Journal

    ...is through the planet core

    • Da planet core? Count mesa outta dis! Better dead here, den deader in da core... yee guds, whata mesa sayin?!

    • If you start from the US and go through the core in a straight line then you will come out in the Indian Ocean in the southern hemisphere (a bit south-west of Western Australia).
      From LA you would be quite a bit east of South Africa.

      If you want to end up in China then you need to start from Argentina (once again, in the southern hemisphere).
  • There has been talks about pipelines lately in North America. Hopefully, they have solved all issues before they implement that human pipeline. Leaks of humans need to be avoided at all cost.

  • by ebonum ( 830686 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @02:11AM (#51412269)

    I think this hyperloop is going to crash into the harsh realities of dealing with a vacuum.
    a) It takes a huge amount of energy to pull a good vacuum. This thing needs to be at 0.02 psi. Vacuum pumps are really inefficient. They mostly take electricity and generate lots of heat.
    b) Running the pumps is going to cost. Vacuum pumps burn out/need maintenance.
    c) 0.02 psi? That translates into a HUGE amount of force trying to crush the tube. 14 lbs/ square inch. It adds up QUICK. Better hope some 13 year old doesn't think it would be funny to put an M-80 on this thing. It might implode and kill anyone in the pod.
    d) Ever to try keep a vacuum? Good luck finding all the little leaks in the seals over X miles of this tube. Getting it evacuated once will be difficult. Now try to keep it sealed for a year. You have the stress of the pods flying through this thing. You have heating and cooling cycles every 24 hours.

    It will make a awesome science project for some students spending lots of other people's money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > HUGE amount of force trying to crush the tube. 14 lbs/ square inch.

      It's not that much. The first loop is planned to be 354 miles long. That is 2.243e+7" in length. The tube is 452" in circumference. The total surface area of the tube is 2.243e+7 * 452 = 10,138,360,000 inch^2. Multiply that by 14.7 pounds / inch^2, and you have 149,033,892,000 total pounds of pressure which is only the weight of about 9,250 Eiffel Towers.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      True. IMO it needs to be double or tri-walled with intermediate structure to be anywhere near feasible.

    • by thePig ( 964303 )

      They have superb engineers who I guess would have thought about these and far more complex scenarios.
      A possible solution is to have say - the whole tube is not low pressure - only subsections.
      These subsections can be quite small, say 5-10 metres wide where they might pull the air out just as the pod reaches that area.
      Sections covered with maybe small valves which allow the pods to go in - and not air to come in from the other side.

      That itself can be done by so many different means
      Say some help from previ

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        To be worth it they would have to send a lot of pods down the tube, with minimal spacing. Each pod doesn't carry many passengers/much cargo. So it probably wouldn't make sense to only remove air when the car is approaching, and it could also be quite dangerous too if the pump fails and you haven't left enough time for the car to decelerate.

        The low capacity is a real problem for the hyperloop idea. By the time a commercial system is running maglev trains are expected to hit 8-900kph, while carrying hundreds

        • "To be worth it they would have to send a lot of pods down the tube, with minimal spacing"

          Or link them into trains once they're underway.

          My personal feeling is that the tube diameter is too small.

          The real moneyspinner is freight and if the tubes can't handle a pod carrying an unmodified intermodal shipping container (that's the kind seen on ships or the back of trucks, not the ones used in aircraft) then the extra manual handling of what's being shipped will kill the economics of using it.

          With regards to th

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        "These subsections can be quite small, say 5-10 metres wide where they might pull the air out just as the pod reaches that area."

        So you're going to have vacuum containment doors all along this tube that have to open just as a 700 mph pod comes barrelling through and suck the air out in that moment too? Oh yeah, thats sounds workable. What other projects is the Mad Hatter working on in Wonderland at the moment just out of interest?

        "this was just 5 minutes guess work."

        No shit.

        • :-)
          Good one. Quite funny too.
          I don't disagree it looks rather far fetched.
          But the point I was trying to make was that there are more than one way to skin a cat, even though this way of skinning was rather far fetched.

          I started with sub sections which is not very bad, but then went and decreased the size a lot - which might be:-)

      • They have superb engineers who I guess would have thought about these and far more complex scenarios.
        A possible solution is to have say - the whole tube is not low pressure - only subsections.
        These subsections can be quite small, say 5-10 meters wide where they might pull the air out just as the pod reaches that area.
        Sections covered with maybe small valves which allow the pods to go in - and not air to come in from the other side.

        Yes, this! The entire length would not need to be a single, gigantically-long vacuum chamber. Segmentation and compartmentalization of sub-lengths could be more economical. Low pressure in front, and high in the back. Well, maybe. If the capsules' travel is near-supersonic, then there would be no benefit from a 'push' of air re-inflow behind.

        Someone will do this study. Segments, periodic buffer tanks, and all the rest will be thought through. This is just solid engineering, which takes time, so I'll

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        It should be noted that a "pig" is the device used to clean out large pipes. There are a bunch of different pigs like those designed to do inspection, repairs, or simple cleaning. Your username kind of checks out but probably not intentionally.

    • One thing to point out is the 0.02 PSI is the minimum air pressure. Designs had to be done taking into account a higher air pressure.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's pretty difficult to fail a 10 or 20 mm thick steel tube catastrophically. A pile of C4 would do it. A few bullet holes wouldn't. Actually the most dangerous thing is probably a good old fire impinging on the tube, I would hope they use a combination of passive fire protection and deluge systems near any road bridges to deal with the inevitable truck crashes. Of course, every meter of the tube will be under continuous AI-monitored video surveillance designed to pick up unusual activity and alert a hum

      • If the tube is going to be running from LA to SF, there's no way it will be 10mm thick, let alone 20mm. That would be far too cost-prohibitive.
        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:23AM (#51412723) Homepage

          You're right, it's not 10mm or 20mm.

          It's "20-23mm". Basically, "nearly an inch", for Americans. And not only that, it's reinforced with stringers.

          Steel is cheap. Seriously, run the numbers - it's only a small fraction of the total cost. 3.14159*((2,23m/2 + 0,0215)^2 - (2,23m/2)^2) * 579800m = 88173 cubic meters of steel = 687753 tonnes of steel = ~$138m of steel. Insignificant compared to the total project costs. Now, of course, that's not the cost to build the tube - pipe costs more than raw steel, and the cost to build is well more than the raw materials. But as for the concept of "Oh my god, that's a crazy amount of steel, it'd be way to expensive!"? No. No, it's not.

          Anyway, the low air pressure isn't even the main load on the tube, it's the weight of the capsule + tubes between columns.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        The pipeline is elevated on columns. That's be one heck of a fire to reach it up there. In a really terrible fire (ignoring that most columns aren't over anything of significance that could burn) you might spall some of the concrete after a couple hours, but that would be bloody amazing if they could get to that point without noticing anything.

    • I am not sure about the leaking. Aren't the leaks normally at the seals where things are screwed together? The Hyperloop is built out of very long steel pipes, with quite some thickness to give stability. I think they only need to check the joints.
      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        I don't see that such a system would even have to be made of steel. Concrete pipes are used to carry water at high pressure. Why not use them at low pressure? Composite pipes could be used too where there are more than one material at work, e.g. concrete, a plastic membrane and an inner steel guide rail.

        I guess the complexity is not in the standard pipe sections but how to implement junctions, parallel sections, pressure locks and all the rest that would have to be part of any practical system.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Steel is less likely to crack (some degree of cracking is considered normal with concrete) and more importantly has greater smoothness. Concrete can be polished smooth but not as smooth as steel, and the air bearing concept requires very tight tolerances. Furthermore, the cost of the steel is almost a footnote in comparison to the total project costs (see above).

          As for the "screwed together" comment... there are no joints. The pipe segments are joined together with an orbital welder, making a continuous

          • by DrXym ( 126579 )
            Smoothness is not an issue since the pod won't be touching the walls on purpose. The pod would ride on a maglev track and wouldn't touch the walls. Providing the pipe has a non permeable membrane that maintains the pressure then it doesn't matter what the pipe is comprised of.

            What matters is the production speed, cost, and issues such as maintenance and servicing. Concrete can certainly crack but metal expansion (and fatigue) is a thing too. If you have long lengths of steel then warping is a serious issu

            • by spitzak ( 4019 )

              Modern rail lines do not have expansion gaps. The rail is continuous (made of short pieces welded together) and is under tension, so heat just makes the tension go down slightly.

          • The pipe segments are joined together with an orbital welder, making a continuous piece of pipe. The insides are then polished smooth by a rotary polisher.

            Do you know what they planned to compensate for thermal expansion of the pipes? I guess these things are not an option: http://www.usbellows.com/expan... [usbellows.com]

    • Exactly. Look what happens [youtube.com] when you introduce a small dent into a metal tube under vacuum. Collapsing hyperloop tubes would become the new frat initiation "prank".
      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:29AM (#51412735) Homepage

        Right, because inch-thick steel (hyperloop) just collapses like a can.

        Seriously, have you run the numbers on how much force it takes to bend inch-thick steel? Even in the event of a bomb-induced rupture it wouldn't collapse like that, it'd simply give just enough to let air in.

        Maintaining a vacuum is easier than maintaining high pressures, and we make and use long high pressure pipes all the time.

        • Not sure how thick the steel is on a rail car, but it is hardly equivalent to an aluminum can. The video is an oil tanker train car being crushed by vacuum, which the mythbusters tried too (one of the next videos on that one) and had to drop a 2500lb concrete block on top of the car to make it collapse.

          Personally, I am not sure why all this talk about vacuums though, the hyperloop is expected to have some air to provide a fluid bearing effect which will cause the cars to float in the tube.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:04AM (#51412681) Homepage

      a,b) 0.02 PSI is extremely mild by vacuum standards. By contrast, ultra-high vacuum is defined as less than 0.0000000000145 PSI. 0.02 PSI is not a difficult pumping challenge by any stretch. And after the initial pumping, the only vacuuming requirements are 1) airlocks at the end stations, and 2) overcoming the rate of leaks. The pump sizing and power consumption needed is well less than with equivalent-sized oil or water pipelines.

      c) And too bad inch-thick steel is such a fragile, flexible material, utterly vulnerable to M80s! Oh wait....

      You do realize that the buckling force of a cylindrical shell is actually far easier to work out (with safety margins) than the physics calculations for the structural stability of the capsules, right? Or for that matter, cars, airplanes... throw in buildings while we're at it.

      d) The plan is not to "find all the little leaks". The little leaks are the only reason that any continued pumping is required at all. Only major leaks need to be found. The pipeline is to be made by the same technology as makes our water and oil pipelines today (automated orbital welding), plus an additional finishing step on the inside.

      There are a number of serious issues that the Hyperloop teams need to show that they need to overcome. You didn't hit on a single one of them.

      • Yeah, I'm not a mechanical engineer, so I didn't want to chime in too early, but 14 PSI sounds like a pretty small pressure difference. If a thin bicycle tire can withstand a 100 PSI differential, then I'm sure they can make steel hold a partial vacuum. My bigger question isn't the tube itself, but rather the train. The train itself has to have an atmosphere so the people inside can breath. How do they prevent the air in the train from emptying into the tube.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          The train has to be sealed as well; it carries its own air supply. And yeah, it's a more challenging engineering project than the tube (hence the reason for the current challenge and the test track). Really, the main engineering challenges with the tube itself have nothing to do with the pressure - they're 1) withstanding thermal expansion while still keeping the track highly straight, and 2) maintaining a very precise surface on the inner walls. They have proposals for these things, but they need to pro

      • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

        "There are a number of serious issues that the Hyperloop teams need to show that they need to overcome. You didn't hit on a single one of them."

        Indeed. The main one being what the hell is the point given that conventional trains are already hitting 200mph+ in europe and japan and 300mph+ has been succesfully trailed in france.

        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @08:10AM (#51412971) Homepage

          What's the point of going three times as fast with less energy at a fraction of the capital costs? Yeah, I can't figure it out either.

          • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

            A fraction of the cost? Wtf are you smoking pal? TGV tech is plug and play, design costs were paid off decades ago. Also you're forgetting the carrying capacity and hence returns - TGV about 1000 passengers, pod about 10. And you won't be sending many pods all doing 700mph one after the other.

            • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @08:45AM (#51413107) Homepage

              CA HSR is a $70B project. Hyperloop is a $6B project. Re: throughput: Hyperloop pods launch every 2 minutes during off-peak (30 seconds during peak) with 28 passengers, aka minimum of 20k per day, up to 80k per day depending on demand. HSR trains leave every 5-10 minutes with 450 passengers; they're ultimately hoping for 110k daily ridership, but it's expected to begin at well less than that (and critics think they're overestimating ridership by as much as 70%, but that's neither here nor there)

              In short, HSR is higher throughput (it's designed to service a larger area), but not by the sort of margin that justifies the order-of-magnitude budget difference. It's also significantly slower, significantly more energy consuming, and significantly more cost per ride. Now, you can doubt Hyperloop numbers - that's fine. But that's not what this conversation is about: this conversation is about what the point of Hyperloop is: far better throughput per dollar at far better passenger cost, energy consumption, and trip time. That's the point. Whether they can pull it off, that's something they have yet to prove.

              Honestly, I personally don't like how Hyperloop was set up as a competitor to HSR. Because it's really something new, something in-between high speed rail and air travel. I think they would have made far fewer "enemies" had they presented their initial pilot route as LA to Las Vegas. Probably could have gotten a lot of investment money from casino operators that way, too.

              • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

                "Hyperloop is a $6B project. "

                In the sales brochure. In reality it'll be a boat load more.

              • by Robb ( 3753 )
                The scope wasn't at all the same between the CA HSR and the Hyperloop. The CA HSR was city center to city center while the Hyperloop was basically just the rural part of the CA HSR route. The rural part of CA HSR would cost about $10B compared to $6B for Hyperloop but with a significantly higher capacity although that capacity really only makes sense city center to city center. It isn't like Elon Musk invented public transportation so a lot of Hyperloop seems poorly thought out for anyone familiar with publ
            • Have you looked at the power consumption of a TGV?

              300+mph has been trialled, but the rolling stock suffered severe coning effects (look that up) which nearly resulted in the train oscillating off the track, the track, ballast, pantographs and (more importantly) the overhead wiring all suffered major damage and the energy consumption for the test rig (a short, specially modified train) precluded doing it on a normal TGV - most TGV sets are over 1/4 mile long and at these speeds on these kinds of trains most

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nature Abhors a Vacuum

      That statement doesn't make any sense, since most of the universe is vacuum, with the average density of the universe being about one proton per 4 cubic meter. Nature loves vacuum!
      Also, 0.02psi is one atmosphere of pressure differential, which is the same as diving 10m below water. Not exactly special.

    • The design is for reduced pressure, not a vacuum. Because the capsules 'fly' aerodynamically, rather than by maglev, it can't be a vacuum. The idea is to reduce the forward air pressure to a reasonable value.

    • That would be the same pressure difference as a tank sealed at sea level being lowered into the ocean 34 feet. It's really not that much pressure.

    • I think this hyperloop is going to crash into the harsh realities of dealing with a vacuum.
      a) It takes a huge amount of energy to pull a good vacuum. This thing needs to be at 0.02 psi. Vacuum pumps are really inefficient. They mostly take electricity and generate lots of heat.
      b) Running the pumps is going to cost. Vacuum pumps burn out/need maintenance.

      A Roots blower can handle a lot of airflow. Back those up with some giant scroll pumps. Maintenance in either case is just replacement of the dry vanes. Energy is mainly spent on the initial evacuation ('work' to nature).

      c) 0.02 psi? That translates into a HUGE amount of force trying to crush the tube. 14 lbs/ square inch. It adds up QUICK. Better hope some 13 year old doesn't think it would be funny to put an M-80 on this thing. It might implode and kill anyone in the pod.

      Be serious. Aside from a cylinder being the perfect shape to handle this compressive stress, one atmosphere is roughly 15 psi. We have space station modules, undersea modules, subways under rivers/ocean, and aircraft. Dealing with radial pressure in metals, either tensile or compressi

    • HUGE amount of force trying to crush the tube. 14 lbs/ square inch.

      The Transbay Tube [wikipedia.org] has a maximum depth in water of 41m, and according to this calculator [calctool.org] experiences 74.4696 psi at that depth.

      The tube liner by itself would probably have no trouble handling the pressure. It will almost certainly be surrounded by steel-reinforced concrete or at the very least pipeline steel because building such things is well understood. However it's built, it'll be ridiculously over-built if an M-80 or a rifle is the

    • "I think this hyperloop is going to crash into the harsh realities of dealing with a vacuum."

      This has always been the bugbear of evacuated tubeways and what killed the 1960s propsals.

      Hyperloop doesn't pull a hard vacuum. It's more like 1-2psi than 0.02 and Whilst proposals are for induction motors for forward motion, the units are intended to fly on an aircushion, not use magnetic levitation (A suitable lifting fan would provide a fair bit of forward motion in a tube anyway, so the induction kickers can be

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't the US using metric like the rest of the world?
    • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

      No they are one of the last three countries using the measurement system of their past overlords. I guess they do it in tribute to the Empire or because they are accustomed to it and do not want to change. Anyway, it is expensive to use such an ancient system in opposition to the rest of the world, and due to its incompatibility of inch, feet, yards, and miles which each other, it is more error prone to use.

      • How do you explain this then? A (very modern) BBC program talking about horsepower and miles per hour?

        https://youtu.be/OL_eIZjiLUk?t... [youtu.be]

      • Here's another example from amazon uk... air conditioners with BTU ratings: http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=... [amazon.co.uk]

        Or the fact that in the US, pop is sold by the liter or two liter or that my aunt's knitting group uses mm in thei patterns?

      • How many languages do most Europeans need to speak? You're not smart enough to learn two measurement systems? I have to know both systems, stay out of the US and you only need to know one.
        • You are completely missing my point. Never mind. It is of course you prerogative to choose what ever measurement system you want. However, you will always have to convert values when you sell products to the rest of the world.

          • If you haven't noticed we are not concerned with selling to other parts of the world, we prefer cheaper and better made imports. The only things we export are death and dollars.
    • Technically the US doesn't have a system and it is left up to individuals to use whatever they want. The exception to this is anything sold by weight or volume in which case it is required by law to be labeled in grams. Like most videos I watch from the UK where people talk in miles, unless they are doing it for the benefit of US viewer which seems a little silly.
      • by jbengt ( 874751 )

        Technically the US doesn't have a system

        Then what is the Office of Weights and Measures for?
        And what meaning would the Mendenhall Order of 1893 have had if the US didn't have a system?
        If there were no system back in the days when money was backed by "precious" metals, how could have the value of the US dollar been set to a particular amount of gold?

        • Technically the US doesn't have a system

          Then what is the Office of Weights and Measures for?

          I think you mean NIST (National Bureau for Standards and Technology), formerly known as the NBS (National Bureau of Standards). They're related, at the least. Both are under the US Department of Commerce (DOC).

          Slashdotters should recall the a multi-national Mars-probe that crash-landed during a 'routine' orbit-adjustment. The contract was specified in Imperial (feet, pounds, etc.), but one subcontractor in the EU didn't get that memo (I don't blame them). The thing crashed into a smoking crater instead,

  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @02:52AM (#51412347)
    I prefer the Futurama design:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    We don't need no stinking carriages!

    • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

      This is only for local transport. When you travel between cities you want higher speeds which is not so nice if you are just sucked through a tube.

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @03:03AM (#51412371) Homepage

    TFA is somewhat lacking in actual information.

    I'd like to know what makes one design of a hyperloop capsule better than another.

    Anybody have any links?

  • what is relationship of these to pneumatic tubes ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    is this a second coming? if so, have they overcome whatever problems they had, that made them go out of fashion after fairly wide use at one time.

    • Re:pneumatic tubes? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:34AM (#51412753) Homepage

      No relation whatsoever, except that both involve a tube. Same with a vactrain. Hyperloop is "none of the above".

      Lift:
        * Pneumatic: (Usually) wheels (though sometimes aero or maglev)
        * Vactrain: Maglev
        * Hyperloop: Aerodynamic

      Propulsion:
        * Pneumatic: Backpressure
        * Vactrain: Single-segment coilgun
        * Hyperloop: Multi-segment coilgun

      Dealing with air resistance:
        * Pneumatic: Frequent stations that have to move a lot of air
        * Vactrain: Hard vacuum, effectively no air resistance
        * Hyperloop: Compressors shunt bypass air
       

      • i did look it up myself, and find that there are too many similarities than differences between pneumatic tubes and so called hyperloop. differences you mention are actually not fundamental differences, since each method you mention can and are being used for different versions of each.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Huh? Pneumatic vehicles are by definition vehicles propelled by pressure. That's what "pneumatic" means. In what manner do you think that is even remotely similar to Hyperloop, which operates in a low-vacuum (aka, pressure devoid) environment and has to be propelled by multiple coilgun segments?

  • More information (Score:5, Informative)

    by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @04:08AM (#51412469)

    From http://www.gizmag.com/mit-hype... [gizmag.com]

    The MIT team's winning design details a 250 kg (551 lb) passenger pod with an exterior crafted from carbon fiber and polycarbonate sheets. With a passive magnetic levitation system comprising 20 neodymium magnets, the pod is designed to maintain a 15 mm (0.6 in) levitation gap above the track.

    The team says with the lowest available tube pressure available of 140 Pa, the pod should be accelerated at 2.4 G and have 2 N aerodynamic drag when traveling at 110 m/s. The design also features a fail-safe braking system that automatically brings the pod to a halt should the actuators or computers fail, and low speed drive wheels that can move the pod forwards or backwards at 1 m/s in an emergency situation.

    • by gnupun ( 752725 )

      If Musk's company earns billions a year from hyperloop travel, how much does the company plan to pay the MIT team in royalties? Better not be 0%.

      • A series of mysterious accidents when the Tesla Model S's the receive as their reward explode on activation. He's out a few factory rejects and little other cost. ;)
  • Greens are protesting this proposed line because of the possibility that a leak will release Canadians into the environment, endangering the Nebraska sandhill crane.

  • Single passenger row. So if you are going with someone you can't talk to them during the trip. Or a parent can't sit with their child. Image a young brat misbehaving for the trip and the parent isn't beside them to get them to stop. And what are you supposed to do with someone who is afraid to travel that way? Strap them in and leave them alone?

    I know the selling point is the speed of the trip but, for example, if business people can't make use of the time while on there then it becomes less useful for the

  • There was an episode of Sea Quest DSV that had a concept similar to this.

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